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 Post subject: Spring, then Winter, then Spring again
PostPosted: April 8th, 2017, 1:22 pm 
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Joined: January 19th, 2014, 4:34 pm
Posts: 491
Location: Springfield, VA
It's been a crazy past month and a half weather-wise in the mid-Atlantic. Late February saw several days of record-breaking high temperatures, with some days inching into the upper 70s. The amphibians really started moving the last week of February and the first week of March, with many breeding choruses heard. However, after that first week, temperatures dropped significantly, with many nights being at or below freezing. There was even and ice and snow storm thrown in there. It wasn't until about two weeks ago that temps went back to normal. Thankfully, the frogs are back to breeding and the Wood Frog eggs did just fine in the cold temps. The reptiles are even making themselves know more regularly, much to my pleasure.

Let's start off with finds at or near my house. These are from late February through the present.

Calling and breeding Wood Frogs (night of Feb 24th)

ImageDSCN3113 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3119 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3121 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3137 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Many clusters of eggs had already been laid

ImageDSCN3126 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0194 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0200 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3131 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

A few weeks later

ImageDSCN0385 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0402 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Tadpoles began emerging 2-3 weeks after the eggs were laid. They start off very small.

ImageDSCN0404 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0390 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

The sites the Wood Frogs bred in were not true vernal pools, as they are rather natural pools along the small creeks that snake through these woods. As such, Green Frog tadpoles that were hatched last Fall can be found with regularity in these pools.

ImageDSCN0396 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0397 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3132 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0551 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

American Toads began breeding in the same pools after things warmed up again in March. I haven't been able to find their eggs, though, and recent heavy rains may have washed them away.

ImageDSCN0450 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0463 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

A few weeks ago, I found my first lizard of the year, a juvenile Five-lined Skink that I flipped under my always-reliable downspout splashguard

ImageDSCN0417 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0412 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Another skink I found under the same spot the other day

Imageiphone Five-lined Skink 4 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Imageiphone Five-lined Skink 5 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

And on a 50F, overcast Sunday, I flipped my first snake of the year there as well - an Eastern Wormsnake

Imageiphone Eastern Wormsnake 7 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Imageiphone Eastern Wormsnake 8 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Here's a Common Crayfish (I believe) that I caught in a minnow trap in the creek behind my house

ImageDSCN0543 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0546 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

And a small Northern Dusky Salamander flipped under a rock in a seepage area
ImageDSCN0552 (2) by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

To wrap up the finds near my house, here's one of my absolute favorite finds of the year so far. I have seen Spotted Salamanders before, and I've even seen my share elsewhere this season, but never have I seen one in the woods near my house. I have spent a lot of time back in those woods, and I've flipped loads and loads of rocks and logs. After not seeing any evidence of them breeding in the vernals, I had written off the possibility that they lived nearby. That is, until one day I went to look for toad eggs, and I flipped a small long adjacent to the Wood Frog/Toad vernal pool on a whim. Low and behold, this beauty was just sitting there, and I'm quite sure I screamed in joy.

Imageiphone Spotted Salamander by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

So I found that one. Where are the rest? I'm wondering why I haven't seen any signs of them breeding. Is it because the true vernal pools did not fill up until midway through March?

Moving on, February 28th brought the first warm rains and it turned out to be a very productive night to roadcruise the less developed parts of Fairfax County. My friend and I turned up eight frog and two salamander species on the roads or on foot that night. The pics below are just a fraction of what we saw.

Wood Frog

ImageDSCN0230 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

First and only adult Marbled of 2017, so far

ImageDSCN0234 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Wood Frogs in amplexus while on the road. Odd.

ImageDSCN0259 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

I was surprised to see Northern Cricket Frogs out this early.

ImageDSCN0266 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0272 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Bullfrog

ImageDSCN0280 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Spotted Salamander with an orange spot. Found in a roadside tire rut that had filled with water.

ImageDSCN0287 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0285 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Spotted on the road

ImageDSCN0248 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

At another site, Peepers, Southern Leopard Frogs, and Pickerel Frogs were calling from a large wetlands formed by a beaver dam.

Spring Peepers

ImageDSCN0291 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0313 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Leopard Frog eyeshine

ImageDSCN0296 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Southern Leopard Frogs. They seem much darker up here than the ones in Florida.

ImageDSCN0298 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0311 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Bullfrog

ImageDSCN0304 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

A week later (March 7th), it rained again, so we hit a different spot on the western end of the county. Not as much was on the roads, but we did turn up our lifer Uplands Chorus Frog, plus a load of Spotted Salamanders in a vernal pool.

Pickerel Frog

ImageDSCN0347 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Old Box Turtle Shell

ImageDSCN0354 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Spotted Salamander Eggs

ImageDSCN0355 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Marbled Salamander larvae

ImageDSCN0362 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

There were close to a dozen Spotted Salamanders in this vernal pool

ImageDSCN3174 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3177 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3179 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3182 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3184 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3185 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Lifer Uplands Chorus Frog (first and only lifer of the year, so far)

ImageDSCN0374 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

The following weekend was rather chilly, with temps in the 40s. Despite that, I squeezed some herping in up in Alexandria City while attending a geology program and managed to turn up five species.

Despite the temps, this Painted Turtle was swimming around in a pond that Wood Frogs had laid eggs in.

ImageDSCN3142 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Wood Frog Eggs

ImageDSCN0321 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Young Eastern Red-backed Salamander

ImageDSCN0320 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Spring Peeper flipped under a log

ImageDSCN0325 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Spotted Salamander - this was the second one I found deep inside an urban area. The other one was in Arlington City, featured in an earlier post this year.

ImageDSCN0332 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

My first yellow-phase Eastern Redback

ImageDSCN0342 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

A few Saturdays ago, I went to a local spot that is known for Spotted Turtles, but couldn't turn any up. Turns out I should have looked more along the shorelines and reeds than trudging through the muddy waters in my waders. Still hoping to turn one up soon!

Eastern Painted Turtle

ImageDSCN3245 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0421 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0426 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Bullfrog tadpole

ImageDSCN0428 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0430 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Younger Painted

ImageDSCN0437 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0438 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Lots of Painteds and RES were out basking. I don't care much for the latter, though.

ImageDSCN3242 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3244 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

About two weeks ago, we had a warm day with lots of showers, so I headed out to do some Frog Watch monitoring at two sites. Peepers and American Toads were the dominant choruses, but Pickerel Frogs were heard as well. I saw more American Toads that night than I'd probably seen in my life up until that point. Well over 100 of them, with most being at the second site. There's a trail that parallels a main creek in the area, and I saw a Toad approximately every 20 feet along that trail, which I walked for a good quarter of a mile. In some spots, I could find as many as five toads within close proximity of one another. The below photo is from one such instance, where I decided to have some fun and line the toads up.

ImageDSCN0501 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Some were in amplexus on the trail

ImageDSCN0503 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

And I got to witness my first mating ball!

ImageDSCN0505 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0510 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Pickerel Frogs were calling from the same slough as the toads above

ImageDSCN0507 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Some were even hanging out in the main stem of the creek, which had a noticeable current

ImageDSCN0511 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0514 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

A feeder creek had plenty of rocks in it, which I flipped this Northern Two-lined Salamander under

ImageDSCN0517 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

This Peeper was calling near a Wood Frog pool

ImageDSCN0521 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Wood Frog tadpoles, and their poop?

ImageDSCN0524 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

The other site I hit up that night was a pond in Fairfax City. Peepers, Toads, and Pickerels were all calling. Got a few new records the database that night!

Calling Peeper

ImageDSCN0467 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

The pond was teeming with Bullfrogs

ImageDSCN0475 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0483 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Toad pair

ImageDSCN0484 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

More Peepers

ImageDSCN0477 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0494 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

That's all for now! I hope that next time I post, I have some lifer Turtles, Snakes, and Salamanders to share with you all. I'm on the hunt for Spotted and Wood Turtles, and I'll be going out to the Blue Ridge Mountains the first week of way, with several outings targeting some of the endemic salamanders that liver there. Should be a great trip!

- Matt


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 Post subject: Re: Spring, then Winter, then Spring again
PostPosted: April 20th, 2017, 2:21 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:11 am
Posts: 2172
Location: Lake Worth, FL
Good stuff all around. My 2 year old enjoyed trying to guess the IDs on your stuff (granted it was pretty general - "Frog!" or "Sa-la-man-DER!"

Look me up if you want to when you make it up here. I can show you some of the usual suspects.


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 Post subject: Re: Spring, then Winter, then Spring again
PostPosted: April 20th, 2017, 4:47 pm 
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Joined: January 19th, 2014, 4:34 pm
Posts: 491
Location: Springfield, VA
Josh Holbrook wrote:
Good stuff all around. My 2 year old enjoyed trying to guess the IDs on your stuff (granted it was pretty general - "Frog!" or "Sa-la-man-DER!"

Look me up if you want to when you make it up here. I can show you some of the usual suspects.


Thanks, Josh. My boy likes to look for "Samaners" and enjoys frogs as well. Turtles have always been a favorite, and I think he's starting to enjoy snakes and lizards after seeing a few.

Are you still out in the mountains of NC? I do hope to make it down there sometime. I've got a trip to the VA Blue Ridge mountains in 1.5 weeks, and I cannot wait!


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 Post subject: Re: Spring, then Winter, then Spring again
PostPosted: April 21st, 2017, 8:18 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:23 am
Posts: 2099
Location: Unicoi, TN
Wood Frog larval series is great


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 Post subject: Re: Spring, then Winter, then Spring again
PostPosted: April 21st, 2017, 11:14 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:11 am
Posts: 2172
Location: Lake Worth, FL
mtratcliffe wrote:
Josh Holbrook wrote:
Good stuff all around. My 2 year old enjoyed trying to guess the IDs on your stuff (granted it was pretty general - "Frog!" or "Sa-la-man-DER!"

Look me up if you want to when you make it up here. I can show you some of the usual suspects.


Thanks, Josh. My boy likes to look for "Samaners" and enjoys frogs as well. Turtles have always been a favorite, and I think he's starting to enjoy snakes and lizards after seeing a few.

Are you still out in the mountains of NC? I do hope to make it down there sometime. I've got a trip to the VA Blue Ridge mountains in 1.5 weeks, and I cannot wait!


Yep. An hour-or-so east of Asheville.


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